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Opinion: Missouri Public Power and Public Gas utilities deserve our thanks

On Oct 4-10,  86 communities across Missouri will observe Public Power Week, celebrating the benefits of their hometown electric utilities. These community-owned hometown utilities serve more than 800,000 Missourians, providing homes, businesses, and local government agencies with reliable, efficient, and cost-effective electricity. 

John Twitty

The same week, 41 Missouri communities will observe Public Natural Gas Week, recognizing the value of their hometown natural gas utilities that serve more than 265,000 Missourians with safe, reliable, and efficient natural gas supply at not-for-profit costs. 

These utilities are commonly known as “public power” and public natural gas utilities, meaning they are publicly owned and community-run, much like a public library or a public school. They are valuable community assets, governed by their customers — neighbors, friends, and family who influence how they operate, just by showing up to open meetings and voicing opinions.

Nationally, there are about 2,000 public power utilities and 1,000 public natural gas systems that collectively serve more than 50 million Americans. These hometown utilities contribute substantially to the well-being of local citizens through customer service, reliability, economic development, environmental stewardship, energy efficiency, and safety awareness. 

In Missouri, hometown utilities were among the first to develop and provide many of our renewable energy resources, such as electricity generated from wind, solar, and landfill gas, demonstrating a commitment to developing diverse sources of clean, reliable, and affordable energy. Some hometown utilities have also taken on added stewardship for their community’s information infrastructure, using electric grid communication advancements to develop rural and community broadband services, expanding community and economic development opportunities in their communities. 

In all, there are more than 120 communities throughout Missouri that provide some kind of non-profit public utility services — not only electric and gas, but also locally-run water and wastewater utilities, all providing services essential for the life of their communities. Dedicated employees of these hometown utilities work 24-7 to keep their neighbors’ lights on, homes heated, and water flowing. They deserve our recognition and thanks.     

We hope you’ll celebrate with us during Public Power Week and Public Natural Gas Week, from Oct. 4-10. We are a part of an American tradition that places a high value on local control over community services, allowing local residents to make important decisions about their utility services.